Call Any Game Anywhere: Testing the Western Rivers Mantis Pro 400
The ability to drum up any animal call you want on demand has obvious advantages when hunting. But would a device that claims to do just that for hunters actually work in the field? Or is it just a fancy gimmick? I decided to give it a try with the compact, remote-controlled Mantis Pro 400, which I recently tested in the field on some actual hunts.
How Does It Work?
The system hosts a small controller that fits in the palm your hand so you can signal calls from a distance. But the Mantis Pro also boasts quite few features that I hadn’t expected to see. The more I found out about it, the more I liked it.
It can be powered by AA batteries or plugged into an alternate 12v power source, and it can also be plugged into other call units or external speakers to give multiple sound sources. In addition to the sounds that come pre-installed, you can add your favorite calls using an SD memory card or connect your phone to it via Bluetooth and play whatever sounds you want. To make things easier on the hunt, there are several programmable features to control call sequences, repeat calls, and the ability to program up to 20 favorite calls for quick deployment. If desired, there’s even a port for a decoy.
But the real question remains. How does it work in the field?
With my new e-call in hand, I headed for the wooded mountains that have been parched all summer long. There is a canyon up there where I frequently see coyotes harassing the deer that are trying to winter. So, an hour or two before sunrise, I headed up that way carrying minimal gear to quicken my step.
When I got to the spot I had predetermined to make a set, there was just enough light to call it safe shooting light. I sat overlooking a steep and rocky draw filled with scrub oak trees and wild rose thorn bushes. It was very quiet, with only the distant sounds of civilization and a few magpies that could be heard. It seemed like a perfect time to do some calling to what I hoped would be a bunch of hungry coyotes.
I set up the system about 70 yards in front of and below me in the draw. The wind was coming down the canyon, which lay out before me. Any coyote that tried to circle around the sounds would surely be spotted. After getting back into my calling position, I checked the volume on the controller and sunk back into the brush to make myself as inconspicuous as possible.
The very first sounds out of the Mantis Pro sounded so good that had I not just pushed the button I would have been grabbing for my gun. I had pre-ordered my favorite calls, so I went through several of the calling sequences. I started out with the volume set at 8 out of 10. It was plenty loud for the size of the canyon I was in, but I turned it up to 10 anyway to see how it sounded. As howls and yips and barks echoed across the canyon in the dim early light, I felt alive.
When I played them at home, it had sounded like recorded dog sounds through my childhood Fisher Price tape recorder. But up here in the wide-open space of the Rocky Mountains it sounded so good I was sure that a whole pack of coyotes would come charging in. I played an array of sounds that would be relevant to this area where I spend much of my time – squirrel alarms, magpie squabbles, and fawn bleats. For a few moments, I managed to fool nearly two dozen magpies. They came in from about 250 yards and sat in the trees around my call until a sharp bark scared them all away. Switching between the sounds on my favorites list was becoming almost like a game.
At one point, I had played a series of coyote barks and howls, hoping to entice the pack to show themselves, but it spooked something else out instead. As I lay there motionless, moving only my eyes and the finger I used to control the call, I caught a flash of movement in the canyon below me. Something was moving up the trail that needed further inspection.
I looked through my glass to see not one but two raccoons moving up the trail. The sound of coyotes getting excited near bye must have gotten them worried. I had just gotten on my rifle as the first raccoon disappeared into the brush, but the second one was still fair game. I had already ranged everything in the valley, so I knew where to hold for the 240-yard shot. I put the crosshair on him and pressed the trigger on my Browning X-Bolt, sending a hot 140-grain BTHP his way.
The impact was mostly dust, but there was some hair and blood in the air as well. The raccoon rolled down the trail he had just lumbered up, and the sound of the shot echoed through the mostly silent mountains. I sat silently for a few minutes, hoping that the ruckus hadn’t scared everything away or perhaps even spiked their curiosity. But after a bit of waiting and additional calling, it was clear that my morning had peaked.
I’ve taken the Mantis Pro on several trips into the mountains now, and I must say I am hooked on it. The sounds included on the call give a great selection that you can build on yourself. As long as you have phone service, you can even stream whatever kind of noise fits your hunt. I found the Mantis Pro to be very useful, though there may have been a couple sets where the terrain inhibited clear transmission of the controls, occasionally requiring multiple presses of the button to get the sounds to play.
This may have had something to do with the distance between the call and myself, but I wouldn’t expect to have connectivity issues unless you were a good 100 yards or so away with land obstructions. Though I found it to be suitable at the max volume setting, I wouldn’t mind if it was a bit louder. But all things considered, I think it is a valuable tool to have in your arsenal, and I feel it is well worth it at the price tag.